I cannot change the world alone, but I can vote. I can call. I can write. I can use my voice, even when it feels like nobody is listening.
When it feels like nobody is listening, I can give something of myself. I can give money to causes I care about. I can be attentive to the needs of those in my community. I can offer rides to those without a vehicle. I can offer food and time. I can care for animals and people who aren’t capable or responsible for caring for me in return. I can appreciate the hard work of others and lift them up for their efforts. I can be a person who offers. I can be a person who sometimes accepts what is offered.
I can make an effort to become fearless. I can stick up for people and speak against injustice. When all the chatter around me is pushing fear, I can choose not to succumb to it. I can set aside my insecurities and push myself to try new things. I can acknowledge the power I have over my own life and I can look for ways to help those who do not have that same kind of power. I can look to courageous people for inspiration, and I can follow their example.
When I feel disgusted by the influence that money has over our politicians and our government, I can consume less. I can practice contentment. I can feel grateful for all that I have. I can go for long walks. I can grow food. I can buy less cheap stuff. I can reign in my wanting. I can drive less. I can take care of the things I own. I can spend my money carefully, deliberately and at establishments that will be thoughtful with their earnings. I can decide not to live a harried life. I can get rid of clutter. I can cultivate an attitude of abundance—there is enough for me and my own, and there is enough for you and yours. I can call out the greed in myself when I feel it creeping in.
I can be careful about the kind of information I allow into my life. I can follow reliable news sources. I can read nonfiction for information, fiction for enlightenment, poetry for transcendence. I can watch fewer shows on Netflix. I can close my browser. I can surround myself with thoughtful and wise people. When I don’t understand something, I can ask questions. I can try to distinguish between news that is important and news that is meant to distract.
For perspective, I can look at the stars, the mountains, the ocean, the vast expanses of land, and remember that I am part of a system that is larger than myself, larger than humankind, larger than what I am capable of imagining. I can remember that the cycle of time in which I am now living is barely a blip. When I begin to feel overwhelmed I can breathe. Really breathe.
When the world feels like an ugly place, when all the news seems bad, I can console myself with music. I can reread the same poem a dozen times in one sitting. I can appreciate the baker, the cashier, the man who plows and sands my driveway, the patron at the library who opens the door for the mother whose hands are full. I can watch the sun rise over the mountains. I can examine a piece of art and imagine how the artist got lost in its creation. I can step outside and feel the cool air on my skin. I can warm myself by the woodstove.
When people don’t see things the way I do, I can honor their lives and their experiences. I can practice empathy and compassion. I can choose to be kind even when their politics are not in line with my own. I can listen. I can work on being patient. If I begin to think I’m smarter or better or superior in any way, I can stop myself and assess my insecurities.
When reconciliation seems impossible, when it feels like the destiny of humanity is division, I can take responsibility for my own missteps. I can learn to challenge my own thinking. I can ask myself why I believe what I believe. When I’m wrong, I can admit that I’m wrong. When I’ve offended someone or perpetuated division, I can apologize for my actions. I can stop surrounding myself with only like-minded people.
When the checks and balances I once thought would protect our rights seem to be slipping away, when the values of our elected officials seem skewed toward profits over people, when the principles of democracy are undermined by the powerful, I can add my small, individual efforts to those of the millions of citizens who are summoning their strength and creativity and commitment. I can be a part of the incredible reshuffling of priorities that’s going on right now. I can know that I’m not alone. My actions are not disappearing into a void. They’re culminating and taking shape and they will make a difference.